The first few months of the year are always an exciting time when it comes to luxury watches. The holidays have passed, Baselworld is on the horizon, and the annual Salon International de la Haute Horlogerie, or SIHH as it's more commonly known, is already upon us.
All of the big guns of the watchmaking industry have come out swinging, and there's no shortage of examples of world-class watchmaking that range from the genuinely stunning to the downright mind-boggling.
Courtesy of industry stalwarts like Audemars Piguet and Panerai, plus small-but-innovative houses like URWerk Geneve and Richard Mille, here are eight of our favourite over-the-top releases of 2016.
AUDEMARS PIGUET ROYAL OAK CONCEPT SUPERSONNERIE
Instantly recognisable by the Royal Oak's iconic case design, Audemars Piguet is one of the older and more long-standing brands in the industry.
This incredible minute repeater—a complication that outputs audible chimes on the hour, half-hour, quarter-hour, and minutes past the quarter-hour—was engineered from the ground up as an exercise in technical innovation, and includes a number of new patents to improve on the already painstaking-to-craft movement.
The pricing has yet to be announced, but based on past Royal Oak concept releases, we can expect it to be in the mid six-figure range.
In case you're wondering what it sounds like, watch the official video release here.
URWERK GENEVE EMC TIME HUNTER
As with most offerings from URWerk, the EMC Time Hunter is a bit of an acquired taste in the visuals department, but it's incredibly innovative at a technical level.
Mechanical watches have a tendency to begin running either fast or slow over time due to a number of contributing factors, and previously the only solution to this was to have someone crack it open and make adjustments.
The EMC Time Hunter, on the other hand, has a built-in complication that measures the piece's precision and lets its owner make micro-adjustments to the watch via a small screw on its caseback.
We could delve deeper into the EMC Time Hunter's other technical marvels, but for the time being we'll just say that this piece is beyond impressive.
AUDEMARS PIGUET DIAMOND FURY
On the list of truly exceptional visual creations, nothing comes close to topping this incredible piece from Audemars Piguet.
Constructed from a combination of 18-karat white gold and roughly 26 carats of brilliant-cut diamonds, it takes highly skilled craftsmen approximately 1,500 hours to build.
If you'd like an in-depth look at what it takes to build the Diamond Fury, Audemars Piguet has released an interesting video.
PIAGET EMPERADOR COUSSIN XL 700P
Bringing us back into the realm of slightly less-eccentric design, but equally magnificent technical innovation, is the latest variant of the Emperador by Piaget.
What sets this version apart is an interesting hybrid quartz-mechanical movement. A mechanical micro-rotor seen at the 9 o'clock position of the dial winds a mainspring, which then powers a combination generator/regulating organ via a mechanical gear train.
We're seeing more and more manufacturers playing with these sorts of movements, and we expect to see the segment develop further as we push into 2016.
PANERAI LO SCIENZIATO-LUMINOR 1950 TOURBILLON GMT TITANIO
At 47mm in diameter, the new all-titanium Luminor 1950 Tourbillon is by no means compact. But it is remarkably light.
By manufacturing the majority of the movement components out of titanium, Panerai claims to have lowered the mass of the movement itself by roughly 35 percent.
Being the first in-house titanium movement of its kind from the company, it's no surprise the folks in the design department chose to leave it exposed.
ROGER DUBUIS EXCALIBUR AUTOMATIC SKELETON CARBON
The use of forged carbon is rapidly spreading throughout the watch industry, and this offering from Roger Dubuis is an excellent example of brilliant execution.
Its case is sharply detailed for such a difficult-to-work-with material, and its skeletonised movement is one of the most appealing on the market.
RM 50-02 ACJ TOURBILLON SPLIT SECONDS CHRONOGRAPH
When compiling this list, there was no way to avoid this painfully bank-breaking offering from Richard Mille.
The hugely innovative firm seems to have fallen into that same poster-boy category as Tom Ford in the sense that no matter what it builds, the luxury market will love it and buy it.
Mille's latest offering is a split-seconds chronograph tourbillon designed in partnership with Airbus Corporate Jets. As always, the attention to detail is impeccable and its exposed movement is as impressive visually as it is technically, boasting a 70-hour power reserve as well as some refinements that allow the chronograph to use up significantly less power during operation than comparable movements.
Yes, it sort of looks like a window of a private plane, and yes, you will either love it or hate it.
URWERK UR-105 T-REX
While not nearly as technically innovative as the EMC Time Hunter, the UR-105 T-Rex earns its rank by taking an already brilliant and unique watch and adding a beautifully hand-finished bronze case that makes it stand out just that much more.
Pricing has yet to be announced, but you can bet it won't be cheap considering production is limited to only 22 pieces worldwide.
First published in Esquire US. *Denotes translated prices.